Belly Dance – An Interview with Kristine Jennes

The countdown to First Dance Vancouver’s Dance Lover Workshop: December Edition is on! There is still time to take advantage of our $50 for 4 class special! Email info@firstdancevancouver.com to get this deal!

We will be posting about some of the styles of dance being hosted December 22nd/23rd and December 29th/30th at the Scotiabank Dance Centre! Check out what our experts have to say…

Native to the Lower Mainland, Kristine has spent several years in Newfoundland and Calgary. Now back in town, we are pleased to have her experience as part of First Dance Vancouver!

FDV: What style of belly dance do you teach?
KJ: I perform fusion belly dance: traditional Middle Eastern dance mixed with concepts from Western Dance such as hip hop, jazz, and ballet. In advanced classes I focus on this, but my beginner classes are based on belly dance technique that is common to all styles.

FDV: What do participants do in your belly dance class?

KJ: I start each class with a warm up to get us all in a dancer frame of mind and prepare our bodies for movement. I introduce a few isolated movements and break down the technique for these in a simple way and then build up both speed and complexity slowly. Once we’ve drilled the movements I put them together into a combination or two. That’s when we really start dancing! I end every class with a little stretch and cool down. Students try new things, move in ways they didn’t know they could, listen to my cheesy jokes, and have a lot of fun – we always get a few good laughs in about something!

FDV: Where do the moves for your class come from?

KJ: Belly dance in general is an amalgamation of folk dances from the Middle East, as well as North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Western Asia. My movement vocabulary is mostly based in North American styles of belly dance. When the original dancers immigrated to North America, they brought their traditions with them. Over time, they were adapted, new things were added, and new dancers brought new innovations. I call what I do “fusion” because it draws on a lot of different sources! I always provide a bit of information to classes about the origins of each movement as it comes up. The history of belly dance is very interesting so I like to include a bit of that along with the movements.

FDV: How is your belly dance class similar to other dance classes? How is it different?

KJ: The movements I teach are pretty common in most beginner level belly dance classes. We all need the fundamentals to start with. As a teacher, I excel at breaking movements down in an easy to understand and non-intimidating way. Not all teachers can do that, and I’m really grateful to MY teachers who gave me this skill. I am also dedicated to creating a positive, inclusive class environment.

FDV: Who are your classes for?

KJ: My classes really are for everybody! I’ve included students literally from age 18 to age 85 of all sizes and shapes. Students tend to be women, but there are male belly dancers out there as well and I’m happy to teach men in my classes. One of the things I love most about belly dance is that there is no “ideal” body type for a belly dancer! Whether you are tall or short, thin or curvy, young or older, or somewhere in between, you can be a beautiful belly dancer. As long as it’s safe for you to participate, I can help you adapt movements to your body type, fitness level, and any physical challenges you have. In general belly dance is very safe and beneficial for the body when taught correctly.

FDV: Who else teaches this style of belly dance?

KJ: Fusion belly dance is really popular, especially on the west coast. Two of my biggest influences and teachers are Rachel Brice out of Portland, Oregon – she’s one of the originators of my style and definitely one of the best! Also Audra Simmons in Toronto – I’m a huge fan of hers! I study with her as much as I can and she’s been really influential to me, both in my technique and my teaching style. I can definitely recommend two groups here in the Lower Mainland: Scarlet Lux and Luciterra.

FDV: Where can you find these styles of belly dance classes?

KJ: I am starting up classes this January in North Vancouver, one in Lonsdale and one near Park & Tilford. If you are interested in all the details it’s on my website, Beautiful Unusual. Scarlet Lux teaches in New Westminister and Richmond and the Luciterra dancers put on classes as well.

FDV: What hesitations do people express about taking a belly dance class and what can you say to calm those fears?

KJ: People who are feeling body conscious – they might be insecure about their appearance, or think that they don’t have the right belly dance “look”. Belly dance is actually one of the most inclusive styles of dance out there. Everyone at EVERY shape and size can be an amazing dancer, there are indeed professional level dancers with every possible body type out there. Body conscious students are sometimes concerned that they have to show their belly. I think this is because in performance we often wear belly-baring costumes, but this is in no way a requirement! Regular old exercise clothes are perfect for class – though I’m appreciative of all bellies so if students want to dance in a crop top or sports bra they are welcome to do so.

The other worry students may have is that they think they “can’t dance”. Well, if they were already experts they wouldn’t be coming to my class, would they? I came to belly dance as an adult with absolutely no previous dance training, and I would say that at least half my students who start with me are the same. Complete dance newbies actually often have an easier time with belly dance than dancers experienced in other styles. Belly dance is very different than formal western dance styles, so experienced ballerinas or jazz dancers often have to work at “unlearning” technique that isn’t applicable.

Check out First Dance Vancouver’s Belly Dance Classes with Kristine Jennes at our Dance Lover Workshop, two Mondays in a row December 22nd and 29th from 5-6.

Photo shoot with JReidStudios

Kristine Jennes Photo shoot with JReid Studios

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